Tough Interview Questions for People Over 50 and How You Should Respond

By Kerry Hannon

Copyright © 2015 AARP. All rights reserved.

As a 50-plus job seeker, expect at least a few questions about your age, even if they don’t directly reference your age. While potential employers are concerned about your age and how it may affect your job performance, they probably won’t come right out and say it because they fear an age-discrimination lawsuit. Here are a few common, age-related questions interviewers may ask.

Are you up-to-date with the latest technology?

Your research about the company and the position should reveal the technology you need to know to do the job. Check the job description if you’re unsure. Mention your knowledge and experience of those technologies along with any other technologies you know that could be beneficial in that position.

Aren’t you overqualified for the job?

Interviewers ask this question because they’re afraid you’ll be bored with the job, dissatisfied with the pay, or difficult to manage because you know or think you know more than your supervisors. Develop an answer that allays these fears. You may say something like the following:

At this point in my career, Im looking for a position I feel overqualified to do, so I can do the job to the best of my abilities and perhaps bring additional skills to the table that may be of use. I know the risks of hiring overqualified candidates running roughshod over a department, and I can assure you thats not going to happen with me. Im very willing to let someone else take the reins and make the big decisions, so I can focus on doing what Im most passionate about.

Why have you been out of work for so long?

Be candid when answering this question. Perhaps you took a leave of absence from the workforce to raise your kids or care for an elderly parent and then had a tough time getting back into the workforce. If you worked as a contractor during your absence or you acquired additional training and skills, be sure to mention these.

What is your greatest strength?

When answering this question, think in the context of the position and job responsibilities. Find a strength, perhaps not your greatest strength, that will best serve the organization’s needs. This may be your ability to solve problems, manage a team, or identify areas of inefficiency.

Would you be comfortable working for a lower salary than you had in your last job? Why?

Nobody wants to work for less money, and you can admit this freely, but as an older worker, you have the perfect answer to this question (assuming the answer is relevant to your situation) — at this point in your career, you’re looking for more than just a paycheck. You’re looking for _____. Fill in the blank.

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to work in the industry, you’re looking forward to learning new skills, you love the company and its mission and want to contribute in some way, and so on. Don’t say you don’t care about the money. Say you care more about something else.

Have you ever worked for a younger boss? How did you make it work?

Even if you’ve never been supervised by someone younger than you, you need to have an answer to this one. Scour your past for times when you worked for or alongside younger people. You may point out that everyone has different knowledge and skills that aren’t dependent on age.

Focus on what young people have taught you or are capable of teaching you. Don’t get into how much you can offer younger people, because that’s probably what the interviewer fears — you trying to take the leadership role with a younger supervisor.